Man Cannot Survive on Drugs Alone: Nutrition's Role in Treating Bipolar Disorder
Last Edited: October 9th, 2012

***Special Note: Nutritional supplementation is not a substitution for medication and any supplements that the reader may be interested in, should be discussed with their doctor prior to consuming.***

Man Cannot Survive on Drugs Alone: Nutrition’s Role in Treating Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder explained by episodes of mania. The manic episodes usually come and go, with normal moods, depression, or mixed states in between. Often, bipolar starts while a person is a young adult and is diagnosed by observation and discussions with the patient and family. Bipolar tends to be treated by medicine and therapy alone, but patients can benefit more from combined therapy. A combination of medicine, therapy, and proper diet can greatly improve the condition.

Medication and Drug Treatment

Medication will likely be the foundation of treatment for bipolar. It will stabilize the patient’s mood and help control manic and depressive episodes. It is important for a patient to never take antidepressants without another medication to balance out the effects. It is best to avoid them if mood stabilizers work for the patient, but if the mood stabilizers does not mitigate depression symptoms, a stabilizer/antidepressant combination might be implemented. Patients should take medicine as prescribed, even if they are feeling better because stopping medicine or skipping doses will disrupt their biochemistry and can cause a relapse of their bipolar symptoms. Patients should communicate with their doctor regularly and the doctor will decide if medication reduction is appropriate. It is important for patients to maintain a healthy diet and exercise often. Depending on your prescription, a common side effect of bipolar medication is weight gain. Exercise is a defense against heart disease and diabetes which are conditions precipitated from obestity, it also increases endorphines and improves immune response which will make anyone feel better.

Orthomolecular Approach

The orthomolecular approach focuses on the role of nutrients in helping bipolar patients. Vital nutrients play an important part in the creation and regulation of neurotransmitters. The orthomolecular approach begins by finding any nutritional deficiencies in the patient, toxins, and any possible food allergies. It is suggested that many patients who suffer from bipolar have allergies to sugars, dairy, and wheat. Any nutritional deficiencies are treated by ensuring the patient gets the nutrients that they are lacking.

Nutrients Needed

Depression is linked to a deficiency in B vitamins, including folic acid, B1, B2, B6, and B12. A multivitamin will improve B6 and B12 and leafy greens and egg yolks will contribute folic acid, a molecule necessary for cell regeneration. Anxiety and fatigue, which worsen depression, can be caused by a vitamin D deficiency. A vitamin D supplement of one thousand units a day and plenty of sunlight when possible should produce sufficient levels of vitamin D, consult your pharmacist first though, because a possible side effects of bipolar medication medication is light sensitivity. Iron, calcium, selenium, magnesium, and zinc can help prevent depression symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids are also strong depression fighters. Omega-3 is in certain fish, like tuna and salmon. If a person doesn’t eat fish, they can get the recommended amount (two to four grams a day) of omega-3 with supplements. Vitamin C helps remove Vanadium, a mineral that has been found to be unusually high in bipolar patients), from the body. Vanadium should be avoided and supplementing vitamin C is a good recommendation for most people with bipolar.


The food pyramid is the best place to start when trying to determine what to eat in order to maintain a balanced diet. People should eat more of the foods that appear at the bottom of the pyramid in the larger groups, and less of the foods that appear at the top of the pyramid in the smaller groups, see “Food Plan” in the links below for an integrated medicine specific food pyramid. It is important to eat complex carbohydrates instead of refined carbohydrates because complex carbs have more nutritional value and do not cause spikes in sugar which are linked to mood shifts that can trigger mania or depression in people with bipolar. Men should have 96 ounces of water and women should have 64 ounces of water daily to maintain hydration. Caffeine should be limited because it will boost energy and then cause a crash in energy and mood later. Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase baseline anxiety levels, which can be dangerous trigger in patients with Bipolar.


Lifestyle changes can help manage your bipolar symptoms in addition to medicine. The circadian rhythm is extremely important to patients diagnosed with mood disorders. Setting a regular schedule and sticking to it, including going to bed at the same hour and waking up at the same hour will improve a patient’s mood. Too much or too little sleep can worsen depression. Regular exercise will improve overall health as well as boost a patient’s mood naturally. Patients should try their best to keep stress to a minimum and should focus on organization and relaxation techniques for stressful situations that cannot be avoided. Patients should not ingest any alcohol or drugs without first consulting their doctor and pharmacist. Not only are drugs and alcohol dangerous when combined with medicines for bipolar, but they can also trigger mania and depression because they effect brain chemistry.

***Special Note: Nutritional supplementation is not a substitution for medication and any supplements that the reader may be interested in, should be discussed with their doctor prior to consuming.***

Orthomolecular Approach

Folate for Depression

Omega-3 and Bipolar

Gluten Sensitivity and Bipolar

Food Plan

Nutrients and Bipolar

You Are What You Eat

Diet for Bipolar Disorder

Nutritional Supplements for Bipolar

Food for the Brain: Bipolar Disorder

Nutritional Consideration in Bipolar PDF

The Role of Nutrition in Kids with Bipolar

Bipolar Medication Guide

Bipolar Symptoms and Medication

Bipolar Medication and Weight Gain

Living Well with Bipolar

Bipolar Treatments

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